Zoe Weil’s TEDx Talk: The World Becomes What You Teach (Full Transcript)

So in answer to the question, “Do I think that it’s fair to provide this form of education to our students?” I actually think it’s unfair not to provide the knowledge and the skills to our students, to our children so that they can be solutionaries for a better world.

Now, let’s say we were to actually embrace this larger purpose for schooling. What would our schools look like? Well, first of all, any of these objects could be a course in a school. And it would be a course that would be relevant to our students’ lives and their future and their health and the health of their planet. And all of the basics would serve that course, because in the process of answering those questions we would be studying math and science, and history and social studies, and economics, and politics, and language arts and many other subjects. We could have overarching themes for each year of school, one year it might be food and water, another year it could be energy and transportation, another year it could be buildings and structures, another year it could be protection and conflict resolution. We can’t live without all of those things.

So, what if the basics were in service to figuring out how we could make all of those systems as humane and sustainable and peaceful and just as possible? Last year I was driving my car and I was listening to NPR on the radio, and there was a report about an Oxford style debate that was being conducted at the New York University. And the subject of the debate was this question, “Is the United States responsible for Mexico’s drug woes?” I remember sitting in my car thinking, “That’s really a bizarre question. Because how could anything as complicated as Mexico’s drug woes be reduced to an either-or question about another nation’s culpability?” It seemed a bizarre question. But it got me thinking about all the debate teams in all the schools where kids are arbitrarily assigned one side or another of a fabricated either-or scenario, and they are taught to research it, and they’re told to argue it and win. To what end?

What if instead of having debate teams, we had solutionary teams? We had students tackling problems and competing — we love to do that — but we have them competing about who could come up with the most viable, cost effective, innovative solutions to those problems. Those problems could be ones in their own school, they could be ones in their community, they could be ones that are global problems. And those students could compete within their schools, and then they could compete with other local schools, and then they could go to states. And then, the really brilliant ideas, we could implement them.

Imagine what would happen. Imagine what would happen if we embraced this vision of schooling. What would our graduates go on to do? Well, they would do the same that graduates do today. They’d be business people, and healthcare providers and plumbers and engineers and architects, and beauticians and politicians. The difference would be, they would perceive themselves as solutionaries. They would know that it was their responsibility to ensure that the systems within their profession were just and humane and peaceful. Why? Because that is what they would have learned in school.

And if we were to succeed in actually embracing this vision, and if we were to succeed in educating a generation of solutionaries, then there is no doubt in my mind that we could solve every single problem that we face, and we would watch that happen rapidly and inexorably by this generation of solutionaries. And then, perhaps, that Star Trek world that I and so many millions of people long for could actually come to pass.

Thank you very much.

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By Pangambam S

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